Lot 10
  • 10

Giorgio Morandi

700,000 - 1,000,000 GBP
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  • Natura morta
  • signed Morandi (lower left)
  • oil on canvas
  • 40 by 50cm.,15 3/4 by 19 3/4 in.


Galleria del Milione, Milan

Galleria La Bussola, Turin

Private Collection, Turin (acquired from the above in the late 1960s)

Thence by descent to the present owner


Lamberto Vitali, Morandi. Catalogo generale. Volume secondo 1948/1964, Milan, 1983, no. 822, illustrated n.p.

Morandi ultimo. Nature morte 1950-1964 (exhibition catalogue), Galleria dello Scudo, Verona, 1997-98, illustrated p. 134

Catalogue Note

Profound and mesmeric in its clarity of composition, Natura Morta forms part of Giorgio Morandi’s lifelong investigation into the potential of the still-life genre. Following the development of key themes in his paintings during the war years, in the early 1950s Morandi continued working towards a heightened simplicity and purity of form. His search for new compositional variations remained of central importance and he began working groups of objects into compact, often flattened and centralised, formations rendered in a lighter palette, as illustrated by the present work. The composition is here anchored by the presence of a warm yellow cloth which serves to lend a particular resonance to the overall image, contrasting with the geometric rigidity of the porcelain vessels to either side.

From an early stage of his career, Morandi was inspired by the great Quattrocento masters: Masaccio, Paolo Uccello and Piero della Francesca. The simple, coherent structure of their fresco paintings, together with the almost sculptural rendering of volume, exerted a significant influence on his painterly style. Morandi fused these influences with lessons learned from the father of modern "Classicism," Cézanne, whose works exhibit the same compositional rigour and highly considered nature. However, in spite of his introspective character and very sheltered, almost reclusive, lifestyle – Morandi spent his whole life in Bologna, only crossing the Italian border twice, even then only a few miles into Switzerland - his artistic legacy has been extraordinarily wide-reaching, with many important contemporary artists citing his nuanced, timeless paintings as an influence. To regard Morandi as merely a painter of still-life is to overlook the spiritual and meditative qualities that he was able to evoke through this genre, and which has often led his work to be interpreted within the context of the great abstract artists of the twentieth century, including Mark Rothko, Ben Nicholson, and Piet Mondrian. All four of these artists shared a remarkable artistic rigour, recognising the importance of a profound exploration of colour and form in order to draw out essential truths about the world around us and the way we interact with it.

Justifying his decision to remain loyal to representational depiction, Morandi explained: ‘I believe that nothing can be more abstract, more unreal, than what we actually see’ (quoted in, Paul Overy, ‘Morandi’, in The Financial Times, 9th December 1970). The spiritual, almost philosophical aspect of Morandi’s work, is in part due to the way in which he disrupts our usual sense of time, as Marilena Pasquali writes: 'time in Morandi is a primary, ineluctable dimension: it is duration, first and foremost, and then invention, gamble, daring. In the reality of phenomena, he seeks the lasting, the unchanging, the illusion of an immobile time. Change, continuous and unstoppable, is in him knowingly as he reflects himself in the object in his studio, making them each time different because it is he, instant by instant, who is different and thus sees what is in front of him with new eyes' (M. Pasquali in Giorgio Morandi, Through Light (exhibition catalogue), Imago Art Gallery, London, 2009, p. 22).

Perhaps the most immediate and recognisable characteristic of Morandi's work is his recurring subject matter. The bottles, bowls and pitchers which populate his paintings hold little personal significance; rather, they are objects of meditation through which Morandi sought to resolve the composition, giving form to the artist's conception. Morandi’s dedication and commitment to such a limited subject matter gives his œuvre a sincerity and gravity, introducing us to a mesmerising world where silence reigns and time is suspended. There is an overwhelming universality to his work: these bottles, pitchers and jars are containers that have been used since time began. Within his still-lifes, Morandi succeeds in imbuing the seemingly quotidian with a suggestion of profundity, a concept expressed to superb effect within the present work.